When perusing this year’s Marquette women’s basketball roster, one name should stand out, if only because she is from Romania. Bucharest, Romania, to be exact.
That player would be freshman guard Cristina Bigica, who averages 3.8 points per game and is shooting a stout 57.1 percent from the floor during the Golden Eagles’ 5-4 start.
Bigica registered a career-high seven points in 18 minutes against No. 21/16 Wisconsin-Green Bay and continued her string of solid play with five points and zero turnovers in a win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Sunday.
Bigica is still learning to transition from the European game — Bigica first arrived in the United States on Aug. 20 to international student orientation — and trying to find her role with Marquette, but if her work ethic and energy are any indication, the coaching staff may have found a diamond in the rough.
“At first, Cristina was having a difficult time adapting to the language barrier, being from Romania, and she is still getting used to ignoring the European rule of allowing a third step, which is a travel in America,” said Michelle Nason, assistant coach and Bigica’s position coach. “But she has a great sense of humor and is a very hard worker.”
Bigica, according to Nason, is learning still to become more of a physical player instead of a finesse-type player that most Europeans are accustomed to.
Bigica was a member of the U-20 Romanian National Team and averaged 11.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists in the 2011 U-20 European Championship. She was also named the most valuable player at the 2010 FIBA U-18 Division B Championship after averaging 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.
Bigica knew she wanted to come to the U.S. to play basketball, but had no idea where she would end up. She was sold on Marquette when coach Terri Mitchell and former assistant coach Cara Consuegra (now the head coach at North Carolina Charlotte) came to Romania to present the university.
“They (Mitchell and Consuegra) really made it seem like a great place to play, and told me that the team was graduating a lot of seniors, so I would have a chance to play right away,” Bigica said. “I really liked Terri (Mitchell), she is a really good person, and the fact that she decided to visit me was a big deal.”
Nason has been impressed by Bigica’s willingness to learn and how quickly she has picked up on what the coaching staff is teaching her.
“Cristina (Bigica) is the kind of player that if you tell her to do something, she is going to do it right away,” Nason said. “Coach Terri (Mitchell) will take her out of a game and Cristina will be there telling Terri what she did wrong. She already knows.”
Sophomore forward Katherine Plouffe, who is from Edmonton, Canada, can relate to what Bigica is going through and has been there to help her teammate both on and off the court.
“I know what it’s like to get a little homesick, although for Cristina, it is probably a little different, because at least I get to go home at Christmas, whereas she won’t,” Plouffe said. “She’s a great teammate, though, and she is really doing a lot to improve her game.”